Saturday, January 18, 2020

Still looking for those (probably non-existent) recordings or transcripts of "World Affairs are Your Affairs"

I was hoping that in a couple days, I would be able to "celebrate" the 70th anniversary of George H. Kerr's radio appearance on KNBC's "World Affairs are Your Affairs" with a post presenting what was actually said during that program. As I mentioned a week or so ago, Kerr was invited to the program and asked to provide an outline of his expected talking points.

I went to the Harvard Law School library on Thursday to look at their collection of the Bulletin of the World Affairs Council of Northern California, a publication of the organization that co-sponsored the program. I wanted to see if there was any mention of the program. The collection contains volumes 1-6 of the publication (I don't know if that's all the issues they had, but it seems to be the case judging from the WorldCat database), dating from 1947-1952. Looking through the issues, I found that they did include announcements about upcoming programs. But as luck would have it, the January 1950 issue was devoted to the annual conference (focusing on "Facing the Facts in China") hosted by the Council, and there was no mention of the radio program.

Kerr's name does pop up in a few places:
  • The November, 1949 issue's article, "Knowland, Douglas to Speak" at the annual conference, mentions that Kerr was invited to the conference, but the later issues (including the January 1950 special issue) don't mention Kerr.
  • The February, 1950 issue's "Calendar of Events": Thursday Open House, 4:30-5:30 p.m., "Feb. 9--GEORGE H. KERR, Lecturer in History, Stanford University, and Research Assistant, Hoover Institute; formerly, Vice Consul in Formosa. The United States and Formosa."
  • The April, 1950 issue's Calendar of Events: Public Meetings, "April 11, 7:30 p.m.--OAKLAND--GEORGE H. KERR, Stanford University. Formosa--A Hot Spot of Asia. Technical High School, 4351 Broadway, Oakland. Arranged by Oakland Technical Adult School Forum."
  • The June, July, August 1950 issue's notes on the activities of the World Affairs Council of Sacramento, including "a forum on 'The Current Crisis in China and Formosa' in which George Kerr, former Vice-Consul in Formosa, Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hearn (Ret.), and Tully Knoles, Chancellor, College of the Pacific, participated."
So that's the extent of what I found thus far.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Just read: Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country

Louise Erdrich, Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of My Ancestors. Harper Perennial, 2014.

My first book of the year. I picked it up at Brookline Booksmith from a table of sale books (there might still be some copies there if you hurry). I'm a weepy sort of reader anyway, but I never thought I'd get emotional over a brief description of a tree that was felled by a storm.

I bought the book because I'm teaching an online course in travel writing this semester. I bought it too late to make it required reading, but I quoted a portion of it in a letter to the students, where Erdrich describes a motel room that she and her infant daughter Kiizhikok stop at after they get back from spending time with friends and family outdoors in Ojibwe country (in northern Minnesota and southern Ontario):
The loneliness of roadside motels steals over me at once. Walking into my room, number 33, even with Kiizhikok’s presence to cushion me, the sadness soaks up through my feet. True, I might have dreams here, these places always inspire uneasy nights and sometimes spectacular and even numinous dreams. But they test my optimism. My thoughts go dreary. The door shows signs of having been forced open. I can still see the crowbar marks where a lock was jimmied. And oh dear, it is only replaced with a push-in knob that can be undone with a library card, or any stiff bit of plastic, I think, as I don’t suppose that someone intent on breaking into room 33 would use a library card. Or if they did, I wonder, dragging in one duffle and the diaper bag, plus Kiizhikok football-style, would it be a good sign or a bad sign? Would it be better to confront an ill-motivated intruder who was well read, or one indifferent to literature? 
I reign my thoughts in, get my bearings. There are touches. Although the bed sags and the pickle-green coverlet is pilly and suspicious looking, the transparent sheets are tight and clean. A strangely evocative fall foliage scene is set above the bed--hand painted! Signed with a jerky black squiggle. The bathroom shower has a paper sanitary mat picturing a perky mermaid, breasts hidden by coils of green hair. The terrifying stain in the center of the carpet is almost covered with a woven rug. As always, on car trips where I will surely encounter questionable bedcovers, I’ve brought my own quilt. There is a bedside lamp with a sixty-watt bulb, and once Kiizhikok is asleep I can read. (78)
I used that to introduce students to a "great tradition" in travel writing: describing one's iffy living quarters. I like a lot of things about these paragraphs, but one is the simple adjective "terrifying" to describe a stain in the carpet. It evokes so much without saying too much.

Of course, there's a lot more to recommend this book than a description of a motel room and a fallen tree, but I'll leave that discovery to the reader.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Looking for recordings of the KNBC radio program, "World Affairs are Your Affairs"

A query posted to the ether: I'm trying to find a recording or transcript of a January 20, 1950 broadcast of the KNBC radio program, World Affairs are Your Affairs. George H. Kerr was invited to participate in a panel discussion on "strategy in the far Pacific" along with Captain John G. Crommelin, Staff Commander, Western Sea Frontier. The moderator was Frank Clarvoe of the San Francisco News.

In a January 12, 1950, letter to Kerr, (Mrs.) Sally Smith Kahn of the World Affairs Council of Northern California described the program as "an informal roundtable type with give-and-take discussion, rather than prepared speeches." "However," she continued, "if you have time, it would be most helpful if you could draw up a brief one-page outline of points which you would like to see covered on the program."

Kerr complied with an outline that emphasized "the gravity of economic and political problems involved," which he argued "appear to outweigh the military and strategic advantages to be gained" by direct US intervention in Formosa. He called Formosa "a military liability" to the US because of the presence of Chiang Kai-shek and argued that Taiwan without Chiang could become "an important training base for the 'Little Marshall Plan' being considered for Southeast Asia."

He also argued that "American policy regarding Formosa has been based on a seriously inaccurate premise, mainly, that Formosa in 1945 and thereafter is indistinguishable [sic] a part of mainland China and must be treated as such."

Anyway, I've made some inquiries to the World Affairs Council, but haven't heard back yet. No luck with various types of Googling and searches in some archives. But maybe I missed something, so I make this plea for help. HEELLLLPP!!!

[Update, 1/8/2020: Wow. Just read the New York Times obituary for Crommelin, who died in 1996. Relevant portions to this post:
In 1949, he was a captain serving at Navy headquarters in Washington when steps toward unification of the armed forces were being discussed and made. But strategic, organizational and personal differences between the Navy and the Air Force -- and also, on a lesser scale, between the Army and the Navy -- exploded into a series of charges, countercharges and public hearings that shook the Pentagon.

Captain Crommelin, as he then was, publicly complained that the Defense Department was scuttling naval air power and showing improper favor to the Air Force. He also asserted that ''a Prussian General Staff system of the type employed by Hitler'' was being imposed on the armed forces under unification.

He was relieved of his duties at the headquarters and publicly reprimanded by Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations, for making public confidential Navy letters linking top admirals to active opposition against unification.

Captain Crommelin was transferred to San Francisco to be air officer of the Western Sea Frontier. After he continued his criticism in the face of orders to keep silent, he was ordered by Admiral Sherman to be furloughed at half pay, beginning early in 1950. That year, The New York Times's military affairs expert Hanson W. Baldwin wrote that Captain Crommelin was a ''stormy petrel who wouldn't shut up.''

Then, the captain moved to his native Alabama, applied for retirement and ended his three-decade Navy career in May 1950, with the rank of rear admiral because of his combat record.

In later years, he operated part of his family plantation, named Harrogate Springs, in Elmore County, raising a variety of crops. He also ran unsuccessfully for various public offices. He was a candidate in the Democratic Presidential primary in New Hampshire in 1968 and also repeatedly announced himself as a candidate for the United States Senate. The National States Rights Party, advocating white supremacy, nominated him for Vice President in 1960.
And so on... ]

[Update, 1/16/2020: So far, no responses from the World Affairs Council chapters that I've contacted... ]

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Kaohsiung Incident 40th anniversary exhibit at the Kaohsiung Museum of History

This hasn't been publicized much for some reason, but from now until Dec. 15, the Kaohsiung Museum of History is hosting a special exhibit on the Kaohsiung Incident (美麗島事件). Here's a press release about the exhibit (in Chinese). A rough Googled translation:
Exhibition Name: Looking Back on the Road-Belonging to Our Beauty Island
Exhibition time: November 29-December 15, 108 [2019]
Venue: Special Room 104, Kaohsiung City History Museum 
The development of democracy is a long road, and Taiwan's democratic process is obvious to all. This (108 [2019]) year is the 40th anniversary of the beautiful island incident. This event is not only a very important historical chapter of Kaohsiung, but also a crucial moment influencing Taiwan's democratic development. The Kaohsiung City History Museum serves as the cultural and historical base of Kaohsiung City. Through the help of the National Human Rights Museum of the National Human Rights Museum and Mr. Su Yaochong of Providence University, Kaohsiung launched the "Looking Back to the Road of Time-November 29, 108" A special exhibition of our island of beauty. 
On the (29th) day, the curator Professor Su Yaochong of Jingyi University gave a lecture on the 40th Anniversary of the Beautiful Island Incident and a special exhibition tour, sharing how the people strived for "democratic politics" before and after the event. Countless sacrifice, in exchange for understanding the results of strict and democratization. 
Lin Siling, director of Kaohsiung City Government Bureau of Cultural Affairs of Kaohsiung City, said that as long as it happened on this land, it should stay in the hearts of people in this land. Democracy is a kind of literacy. Regardless of the inheritance of democracy 40 years ago or 40 years later, there will be different expressions of maturity after different stages. I hope that school institutions can come to the exhibition and think about how young generations can achieve it through peaceful and contributing methods. Democracy belonging to this generation. 
The special exhibition uses three exhibition areas, "Background of the Times", "Outbreak of Conflict" and "Beyond Beautiful Island", to combine photographs, police helmets and shields, newspaper clippings, and cultural relics from other party magazines at the time to tell the public about the beautiful island incident. Pick up and turn. I hope that through the exhibition, I will lead the audience to trace the historical context of this major event, and then reflect on the future of Taiwan's democratic politics. 
The "Kaohsiung Incident" or "Beautiful Island Incident" occurred on December 10, 1979, when the "Beautiful Island Magazine" held a march to promote International Human Rights Day. A serious clash between police and civilians broke out. A total of 152 people were arrested. The remainder were tried in general justice and another 8 were tried in military law.
I'm unfortunately not going to be able to go since we won't be going to Taiwan this winter break, but I hope anyone who sees this will either go or publicize the exhibit more on social media so it gets good attendance.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Night in the American Village

I just finished reading Akemi Johnson's Night in the American Village: Women in the Shadow of the U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa, which I bought in Kindle format after reading John Grant Ross's review of it.

Ross does a good job summarizing the book (without giving away too much!), so I recommend you read his review (and then buy the book!). I just want to mention a few points that I found interesting (which probably will say more about my own particular--or peculiar--interests than about the book itself). A lot of what the book centered around had to do with language, culture, and intercultural relations of various kinds--not surprising, I suppose. One extended example:

Johnson describes a 34-year-old Okinawan woman named Naomi who worked at the U.S. Navy Hospital as an Master Labor Contractor (MLC), a full-time position for "permanent residents of Japan who are unconnected to the U.S. military"; Johnson describes MLCs as forming "the lowest rung of the chain of command, below American active duty and civilian personnel." And not surprisingly, these workers as the lowest rung turn out to be "the continuity that [keep] the place running." One of things that make Naomi essential to the functioning of the base is her language ability and cultural knowledge. Johnson describes how this knowledge works on a typical day:
Over the first four to five years on the job, Naomi had learned a sophisticated system of code-switching to thrive in her multicultural workplace. "Once I go through the fence [between the U.S. base and its surroundings], I become chotto, a little bit, American," she said. On base, she shifted her mindset, ready to say "no" if she meant "no" instead of the "Hmm, let me think about it" she'd use off base. she had to be ready to adjust, depending on whom she was talking to, something she excelled at because of her experience living in both the United States an Okinawa. "I can imagine how they tend to think," she said of Americans and Okinawans. She knew with a local, middle-aged man who worked on base, she had to joke with him, talking to him casually, with an Okinawan accent. When she spoke to her contractor from mainland Japan, she switched to a Tokyo accent, which she'd learned from having Japanese roommates in the States. With her American supervisor, she had to use clear and professional English. If she messed up, the stakes could be high. "If I talk to an Okinawan ojichan [grandpa] with a mainland accent, he'll block me right away. Boom! 'I don't talk to you anymore.'" If she talked to him the correct way, he treated her like family. "That's how I figured out how to survive in that environment. I like it, actually."
Shuttling among languages and cultures (as Suresh Canagarajah might put it), Naomi demonstrates a sophisticated rhetorical awareness of what it takes to get done with different people in different contexts. She is almost a different person depending on who she is talking to. To Johnson, Naomi points out the implications of this in terms of her self-identity:
Looking back on her experience, Naomi thought it was easy to label the different roles she had played: Okinawan, international student, adult professional. But those labels didn't adequately describe her. "The inside is more difficult," she said. "I'm a blend of so many factor: Okinawa, United States, California, and on the base. ... It's hard to categorize me right now." ... She valued this flexible self she had cultivated. "My perspective changes almost every day," she said. "I'm creating my own style."
I'm not sure if Naomi is her real name because Johnson notes that she changed some interviewees' names (but on the other hand, she mentions a "Naomi Noiri" in her acknowledgments). I've been discussing with some colleagues the issue of international students' names, in particular the international students who choose to be called by "English" names. Naomi's experience and her awareness of moving in and out of identities adds an interesting twist to the question of what it might mean to take on a name that is not the one you were born with (or rather, that your parents gave you) in intercultural contexts.

Anyway, read the whole book! It's a great read.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Oh, and on a vaguely related note...

The pastors in the churches from my fundamentalist upbringing are saying, "Aha! I told you so!"

And when I saw this new item, I immediately thought of this:

(Don't think those pastors would appreciate the song, though...)

Something to come back to when I get a chance (I always say that...)

A student in one of my first-year writing classes is doing research on "technological singularity" and it jogged my memory of a book I once owned (and might have actually read some of!) years ago by Stephen L. Talbott: The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the Machines in our Midst. (I'm amazed that I can actually remember the whole title! Must have been memorable!) Unfortunately, I no longer seem to have that book unless it's in my in-laws' house in Taiwan, but I was able to find some notes on the book by C. M. Mayo, who did a lot of research on the ideas behind the book. She also points out that Talbott has put the book online on his website, so I don't have to buy it again...

I don't know (yet) how Talbott's book might connect to the questions my student will be trying to answer about technological singularity, but it might be that the warnings that he raises are even more fundamental to our relationship with each other and technology than the question of what AI might be able to do in the future.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Publication by former student

Rickard Stureborg, a student from my summer ENGW 3315 (Advanced Interdisciplinary Writing) course, revised one of his projects for class and submitted it to "Towards Data Science," an online publication of articles about data science and machine learning. The other day he wrote to tell me that they had published it! Yay!

Here's his article, "Artificial Neural Networks for Total Beginners." Using an example of how to predict the height of a tree based on the soil content of the ground, Rich explains how models would be created, tested, and refined using machine learning.

Note: I know that almost 20 years ago I argued against teachers "advertising" students' publications because it struck me as being an appropriation of their work.  But as Rich told told me, the more I share it, the more people will see it. (Now I have to go back and revise that paper...)